Changing A Portrait Background Using Photoshop CC

I made this image of a Demoiselle Crane and wasn’t happy with the way the background turned out.  Overall, I got the eyes to be sharp and the background to be blurred out, but I would have preferred not to have the gray at the very top.  I decided to rectify the background in Photoshop CC and here is how I did it.  By no means do I mean that this is the only way to alter a background in Photoshop.  This is just the way I chose to do it.

Demoiselle Crane (as shot)

Demoiselle Crane (as shot). I was not satisfied with the gray in the top background. The following is the process I used to make the background uniform.

I began by taking a slice of the preferred green from the left side of the image and creating an identical sized frame full of that green.  There are many ways one could have created this background image, but here is how I did it.  I cropped a small portion of the left of the bird and in Photoshop CC, scaled that image to the same size as the main bird image.

Background for the image.

Background for the image, created by cropping a small portion of the background from the “as shot” image. Then, rescaling to match the dimensions of the main image.

Now, I have two files in Lightroom (LR), the first one being the as-shot image of the bird and the second one being this background.  Choose both of them in the Library module of LR and right click to open them as layers in Photoshop.

Opening the main image and the background image as layers in Photoshop CC

Opening the main image and the background image from Lightroom as layers into Photoshop CC

The two layers can be seen in the layers panel of Photoshop CC.

Layers in Photoshop CC

Layers in Photoshop CC

Using the layer mask icon of Photoshop CC, open a layer mask for the top layer, which is the layer for the bird image.

Adding a layer mark

Adding a layer mask

The layer panel will look like this.  The white is the layer mask.

Layer Mask seen in the layer panel

Layer Mask seen in the layer panel

Then, Select > Color Range, to make a selection in the layer mask.

Using

Using “Color Range” to make a selection

This results in the following automatic selection.

Initial selection using

Initial selection using “Color Range”

In this selection, white is see through, while black is blocking.  Imagine the layer mask to be on top of the layer.  Wherever there is white in the mask, the underneath layer is revealed and wherever there is black in the mask, it is hidden.

So, this mask reveals most of the bird, but notably, the eyes will be hidden and parts of the neck will be partially hidden.  This is not what we want.  Despite this, the initial color range selection is of great help, because the edges are detected well and we don’t have to laboriously select the edges and make all kinds of ugly errors in the process.

Notice the three eyedropper icons just below the “Save” button.  The dropper with the + sign when enabled and used, will add some colors of the image to the mask selection and the dropper with the – sign when enabled and used, will remove some colors from the mask.  I played some with these two droppers and ended up with this mask.

The mask, after tweaking with the eyedroppers.

The mask, after tweaking with the eyedroppers.

Still not perfect.  I want the whole bird to be clearly visible.  The gray areas of the mask will partially hide the bird.  To correct this, I pick a feathered brush and painted white in the gray areas inside the bird, making sure that I don’t go too close to the edges.  I end up with the following mask.

Mask, after painting with white inside the area of the bird

Mask, after painting with white inside the area of the bird

Sidebar Tip – when you want to paint on the mask, sometimes, it is not visible on the screen.  To make it visible in the main screen, press the “\” key, which is usually above the “Enter” key.  This makes it visible in red and white.  To make it visible in black and white, now use the “`” key, which is usually above the “Tab” key.

This corrected mask (above) is pretty good.  I now have a mask that will precisely reveal the bird.  Coming to think of it, what I really need is a way to reveal the background from the background layer, and so I decide to invert this mask.

Inverting the mask

Inverting the mask

I want the white area to be perfectly white.  So, I take a brush and paint the background area totally white in this mask, being very careful not to paint over the edges.

Final mark that looks good.

Final mask that looks good.

At this point, go back and look at the layers panel.  If we want to hide the bird and reveal the background, this mask needs to be in the layer that has the background.  But, now, this mask is in the bird layer.  This can easily be corrected.  Drag the mask from the bird layer to the background layer.

Moving the layer mask to the background layer

Moving the layer mask to the background layer

Now, the layer mask is in the correct layer.  Still the image looks the same as the original.  No change.  That is because the bird layer is on top of the background layer.  Let us reverse this.  Push the whole background layer, including the mask, to the top.

Reversing the order of the layers in the stack

Reversing the order of the layers in the stack

To be clear, in the top layer, the background layer and the mask both exists.  The mask has black all over the area containing the bird, meaning – the bird is blocked in the top layer, while fully revealing the background.  Therefore, we are able to see the background from the top layer.  The black area, since it blocks the top layer from being visible, reveals the underneath layer, the bird itself.

Done.

Final Image of Demoiselle Crane

Final Image of Demoiselle Crane

One request – if you like this post and feel that you have benefited from it, please pass a link of this post to a friend who may appreciate it.  Furthermore, please visit my Facebook page – Facebook.com/pixgaga and “like” it.  Thank you.  As always, comments are always welcome.

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